This week, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced that he will introduce the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act, a bill that would “phase out the captivity of orcas so that their display ends with this generation.” The legislation would outlaw breeding, capturing, importing orca whales for the purpose of public exhibition in the U.S. Essentially it’d be the nail in SeaWorld’s Shamu-sized coffin.
Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist who’s been one of the loudest voices against SeaWorld, acknowledged that the bill’s chances of success “are not fantastically high,” but that it does have bipartisan support.
“Regardless, it sends a strong message, to the public display industry and the states with captive orcas, that this is a public interest matter, solidly in the mainstream,” she said in an email.
This isn’t the first bill of its kind — others like it have been proposed in the past, and several states and countries have laws that either ban or tightly regulate orca captivity. And last month, the California Coastal Commission ruled that the company could only carry out its planned expansion if stopped breeding orca whales.
It’s just the latest in a series of public relations nightmares that have sent the company spiraling. First, the film “Blackfish,” which featured interviews with former orca whale trainers who spoke about disturbing conditions at the park, premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film was shown on CNN and sparked outrage over orca whale captivity. Then, attendance at its San Diego fell 17 percent in one year, to 3.8 million, a wave of lawsuits have plagued the company, and last January the CEO resigned.